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Notes: Wings will face Senators with Karlsson this time

Nielsen is a game-time decision after not taking part in morning skate

by Dana Wakiji @Dwakiji /

OTTAWA -- When the Red Wings last visited Ottawa, the Senators were missing one of their most important pieces.

Senators captain Erik Karlsson did not play Oct. 7, the second game of the season for both teams, due to the fact he was still recovering from offseason foot surgery.

The Wings won that game, 2-1, with Frans Nielsen getting the game-winner in the shootout.

Karlsson has played in seven games so far and has 10 assists, matching Mike Green and Dylan Larkin's assist total in 13 games.

"When Karlsson's on the ice they're a better hockey team," Wings coach Jeff Blashill said. "He's one of the best players in the world. I think his coach (Guy Boucher) called him the best player in the world when he was coming back. He's an elite player you have to be aware of.

"The one thing with him for sure is you have to make sure you never let him beat you up the ice as a forward, so you might forecheck him, you better stay above him the whole way back up the ice and then as he comes in the zone just know he's going to make lots of plays, so we better track back hard and make sure we have the slot protected."

That is not a job for just one player on the Wings.

"We have to do it as a group, the five guys on the ice," defenseman Xavier Ouellet said. "We have to be hard on him and put a lot of pressure on him, try to take as much time away from him with the puck as possible. The longer he has the puck, the most dangerous he gets. You want to be fast on him, you want to take his time away and have him get rid of the puck."

Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg, who has played with Karlsson for Team Sweden, said he was surprised that Karlsson was a minus-6 in his last game, an 8-3 loss at home Monday to the Montreal Canadiens.

"That's a lot. But he could also be plus-8 the next game so it usually evens out," Zetterberg said. "When he's on his game. he's tough to defend. He has everything, skates real well, great vision, good shot, so when we play a guy like that, just got to minimize their space and time and preferably you have the puck instead of him."

NIELSEN QUESTIONABLE: Although he was not one of the players who took a maintenance day Wednesday, Nielsen was absent from the team's morning skate.

"Nielsen will be a game-time decision," Blashill said. "I don't foresee it long-term. I think he'll play but we're just taking some precaution this morning."

David Booth, who cleared waivers at noon, took Nielsen's spot between Justin Abdelkader and Darren Helm during the skate.

Blashill said Booth would remain with the Wings, giving them roster flexibility if needed.

LEAN OUELLET: This past offseason was big for Xavier Ouellet in many ways.

In addition to becoming a father to baby Thea in July, Ouellet remained in metro Detroit for the summer and worked with Stacy Barber.

"She's a power skating coach so I did a lot of power skating with her throughout the summer," Ouellet said. "Started pretty early, I would say in June started skating twice a week with her. It was basically edge work and skating, no pucks really. A little bit but it was mostly about the skating part."

Ouellet said he feels like a different player, something he needed especially in today's speedy NHL.

"I think it's made a big difference," Ouellet said. "I lost quite a bit of weight, too, changed my nutrition program and training. I think the power skating and all this together helped me move a little better on the ice. I feel faster and I feel more energetic."

Ouellet said he lost about 15 pounds.

"I know he worked really really hard," Blashill said. "He worked hard with his diet, he tried to put himself in position to be successful. I think he's done that. When he's playing his best, he manages the game well, he doesn't try to do too much. He can make good outlet passes, but he doesn't try to do too much, and he defends well and he's hard to play against."

Although generally paired with Nick Jensen, Ouellet has also seen time with Green while Jensen has skated with Niklas Kronwall.

"That's not totally abnormal," Blashill said. "You got three D pairs, you have four lines you got to face, you can switch them up depending on who they're playing against. I think having Kronwall-Jensen, Ouellet-Green gives a veteran presence with each of them. It allows us a better chance to get them out there and be effective. So we'll continue to do that."

Ouellet doesn't mind switching it up from time to time.

"Of course I like playing with Mike. I don't know who wouldn't like to, he's a great player," Ouellet said. "I guess as a young player, you don't really think about who you're playing with, you want to play. You want to be in the lineup, you want to be on the ice. So far I think it works out. I've been playing pretty good with Green, I think we do a good job together. I guess it changes a lot, we'll see where it goes. We'll keep going."

HOMECOMING FOR MRAZEK: Whenever the Wings visit Ottawa, there are always people there to see Petr Mrazek, who spent three years in Ottawa with the 67's.

One of those people is his former goaltending coach, Tom Dempsey.

"It's always nice to see my old friends from Ottawa," Mrazek said. "I had dinner yesterday with my billets and Tom, the goalie coach I had, so it's always nice to see them."

Mrazek said he really enjoyed his time in Ottawa.

"I had great coaches, great staff, we had great fans," Mrazek said. "Even the team was really good, my billets. Everything I had here was fantastic. I can't complain."

Mrazek has not played since the overtime loss to the Washington Capitals Oct. 20 but he is not complaining.

"Jimmy's (Howard) playing well. It is what it is," Mrazek said. "I'm just trying to stay sharp and wait for the call. You have to be ready as a goalie, so you try to work hard every day and put in extra work so when I get the call to be ready."

That call is going to come either Sunday or Monday, when the Wings play back-to-back games in Edmonton and Vancouver.

"What Petr's done an excellent job of this year is his work ethic has been excellent, his attention to detail has been excellent, his approach to improve his technique and his game has been excellent, he's just got to keep doing that," Blashill said. "So then when he gets the opportunity to play he knows he has the foundation. I think confidence comes from knowing you've put the work in to be successful and he's done that. So obviously game groove is a little bit different, everybody would like to play every night, but it's not the way it goes, so he just has to make sure he's ready."

Mrazek said he feels all the hard work he did over the summer is paying off for him now.

"I feel great," Mrazek said. "I think the games I've played, I look a little different than last year. That work I put in in the summer trying to continue and improve."

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